If you walk into my house during dinner or during a movie night, you can tell my parenting style from where I sit. And there is a reason I sit where I do.
The house I grew up in was arranged like most houses during the 1970s and ’80s. Our living room showcased the hierarchy of the home. A couch and a loveseat lined up along the walls opposite one another while my father’s recliner received a direct view of the television. If you were seated on the couch or loveseat, you had to turn your head or body to watch TV.
My father’s chair always seemed silly to me, even though my sister and I would fight over it when he wasn’t around. It was silly that only one person could have the best view of the t.v. It was silly that everyone huddled close together while one sat all alone.
In my house, a couch sits directly in front of the TV and a love seat sits off to the side. There are no chairs. There are 6 people in my family, and we often squeeze altogether on the couch. Arms wrap around one another, legs cross in different directions, but we’re all on the same viewing page. If there was a chair, chances are it would be shared by two people.
The same goes for my seat at the dinner table. Growing up, my parents sat at both ends of the table, while my sister and I sat across from one another in the middle. We have a long rectangular table, but my seat is the same one I occupied as a child, right in the middle. In my seat, I am in the center of the action. Everything goes through me and around me. I am smack-dab in the middle of my family.
Fatherhood looks a lot different now than it did generations ago. Dads are stepping into the middle of their families, instead of watching from the top. Trickle-down parenting is on its way out while a more engaged and hands-on approach has taken its place. My seating arrangements may not be the way of the generations before me, but it is my way. My kids, wife and I sit (or stand) shoulder to shoulder – whether taking on tasks, being entertained, or simply just living.
And in this way, no one in my family is alone.
A version of this first appeared on One Good Dad.